Business Book of the Week – Drive – The surprising truth about what motivates us by Daniel Pink

Drive – The surprising truth about what motivates us

I had one of those surreal conversations with someone yesterday. They insisted that they got the best performance out of their salesforce by offering them a very high proportion of their salary in a performance related bonus. They are SO convinced that this is the best motivator “for that kind of person” (!) that they say they have decided that the best response to the economic downturn is to move them to a 100% performance related package with “limitless earnings”. Over 20 minutes, I explained the science of motivation and how their approach was discredited, how it simply doesn’t work. It wasn’t a lecture, and I caught them nodding vigourously in agreement with me at various stages of this ‘conversation’. When I had finished, they had only one response… “Well that may be.” In other words, that might be what is scientifically proven. “But I still know I will get more out of them if I only pay them for results.”

Daniel Pink wrote a book earlier this year, called Drive – The surprising truth about what motivates us – it’s a pretty compelling case…

In Daniel Pink’s own words…


Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery & purpose.


When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements:

  1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives.
  2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
  3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Listen to Daniel Pink on the surprising science of motivation – speaking at the TED Talks in Oxford:


Daniel Pink is the author of several provocative, bestselling books about the changing world of work.

His latest is Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, which uses 50 years of behavioural science to overturn the conventional wisdom about human motivation and offer a more effective path to high performance. Drive reached every national bestseller list in its first month of publication and is now in its sixth month on the New York Times list.

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future charts the rise of right-brain thinking in modern economies and describes the six abilities individuals and organizations must master in an outsourced, automated age. A Whole New Mind is a long-running New York Times bestseller that has been translated into 23 languages.

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need is the first American business book in the Japanese comic format known as manga and the only graphic novel ever to become a BusinessWeek bestseller. Illustrated by award-winning artist Rob Ten Pas, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko has been translated into 14 languages.

Dan’s first book, Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself, was a Washington Post bestseller that Publishers Weekly says “has become a cornerstone of employee-management relations.”

His articles on business and technology appear in many publications, including the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Wired, where he is a contributing editor. He also writes a monthly business column for the The Sunday Telegraph. Dan has provided analysis of business trends on CNN, CNBC, ABC, NPR, and other networks in the US and abroad. And he lectures to corporations, associations, and universities around the world on economic transformation and the new workplace.

A free agent himself, Dan held his last real job in the White House, where he served from 1995 to 1997 as chief speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore. He also worked as an aide to US Labour Secretary Robert Reich and in other positions in politics and government.

He received a BA from Northwestern University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and a JD from Yale Law School. To his lasting joy, he has never practiced law.

Dan lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and their three children.

Watch Daniel’s conclusions unfold graphically at the RSA in London:

Click on any of his titles above to order from Amazon.

Best wishes

Graham Wilson – 07785 222380

PS My previous Business Book of the Week was “Mind Maps for Business: Revolutionise Your Business Thinking and Practice” by Tony Buzan (16/10/10) – Helping leaders see situations, organisations, themselves and others, differently – Motivation and advice for senior executives exploring new opportunities

London (W1 & EC3) – Oxford (OX2) – skype

One Comment

  1. Hi Graham

    Very interesting story about your experience with the salesforce managers. Must have been frustrating for you – and yet it is quite possible that they were right.

    “People” are far from uniform, and as you know, I put considerable store by the insights we can gain by applying developmental models which, amongst other things, describe different ways people make meaning of the world. Classifying the sales forces as “that type of person” may have been precisely the right approach.

    I’d seen Pink’s TED video and as so often with TED stuff, was inspired by it.

    But actually, what he says supports the argument to make the sales people highly incentivised by performance. He is very careful to say bonuses work very well for simple, focussed tasks. Certainly, many sales situations are of that nature.


    BTW – I’m starting to look at the idea of Holarcracy ( – organizational structures that completely support what Pink is talking about.

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